Molly Pitcher: Biography, Facts & Timeline

Instructor: Thomas Davis

Thomas has taught high school age students for 34 years, undergraduate 12 years, and graduate courses for the last 8 years. He has a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University in Evanston, Illinois.

Molly Pitcher, as she became known, is famous in United States history for taking the place of her husband and helping to fire a cannon at the Battle of Monmouth during the Revolutionary War.

The Legend

Revolutionary War legend tells us that Molly Pitcher stepped in for her husband at the Battle of Monmouth and took his place at the cannon. She stayed until the end of the battle, which was finally won by the Colonists. In addition to her heroism, she diligently worked providing water, working as a nurse, and providing moral support for the brave revolutionaries. Molly served as proof that women could do many things previously not commonly thought to be possible. This lesson will examine the life, contributions, and timeline associated with revolutionary legend Molly Pitcher.

Molly Pitcher
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Molly's Real Identity

Though there is some official disagreement over exact details, many believe that the woman history has come to refer to as Molly Pitcher was born to German immigrants under the name Mary Ludwig. The exact date of her birth is unknown, but it is believed to have happened sometime around October 1754. She married a man named William Hays when she was still a teenager, and after two marriages, she died under the name Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley.

Off to Fight

On April 19, 1775, the revolution in America began. As many men did, William went off to fight the British in the Revolutionary War. Mary Hays eventually followed her husband into the war. As the war went on, Mary found herself beside her husband at the Battle of Monmouth. July 28, 1778, was a very hot day on the field of battle, soldiers were dropping frequently form heat. Mary grabbed pitchers of water and started to deliver water to the soldiers there. This is when Mary changed to 'Molly Pitcher.' During this particular battle Mary (Molly) single-handedly carried an injured young man off of the battlefield to safety. She took him away from the advances of the British Army. At the time, people found it amazing that a young woman would be brave enough to deliver water during fighting, carry a young man to safety, and at the same time tend to other wounded or sick men.

Molly Pitcher takes up the Cannon

As that fateful day continued the temperatures rose to almost one hundred degrees. When Molly Pitcher saw her husband go down from the heat, she took over for him at the cannon. The cannon crew was very tired and about to give up when Molly took the job as gunner. She grabbed the rammer staff out of her husband's hands and was able to help. The cannons continued to fire, rebels continued to fight, and the revolutionary army won the battle. Mary could have been killed, and her actions were heroic. Due to her actions, General Washington sent along his personal thanks.

Molly Continues the Fight

After the Battle of Monmouth, Molly resumed her role of helping the sick and wounded as well as delivering water to revolutionary soldiers. When one would die of heat stroke, which many did, Molly would be very upset. At one time during a battle Molly was almost hit by the enemies' cannon ball which came close enough to travel between her legs and rip her skirt. According to oral tradition, she supposedly said, 'Well, that could have been worse.' Molly was a positive force for the army. She stayed positive, fought as long as the soldiers did (sometimes longer), and always encouraged them.

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